Holy Whole Foods!

Today I went into a mystical new land they call, ‘Whole Foods at Friendship Heights.’ This mammoth is the nucleus of a brand spanking new retail walking mall on the District-Maryland line. The flower-lined walkways promise to make all your dreams come true, as long as you keep your plastic out and your self-esteem real low.

Yes, I’m a sucker for the year-round tomatoes, the $20-a-pound wild caught salmon and the stale corn bread samples, but it’s really their marketing angle that irks me. @wholefoods claims, “Fresh organic tweets from Whole Foods Market 24/7.” Organic? Not only is that not true, I’m not entirely sold on organic being the best in all cases. Not to mention the “organic” produce section is confined to a 4×4 in the back. That said, is it better to grab a local conventional cucumber or an organic apple flown in from New Zealand?! Pesticide debate aside, the environmental impact of organic is hard to decipher. Besides organic is a term losing its meaning at a rapid pace, especially since Wal-mart got a hold of it and lobbied for regulation adjustments. Any time a retailer makes some commodity uber affordable, I have to wonder about its quality.

Personally, I feel like Whole Foods should support farmers’ markets inside the Woo-Foo, as well as other local retailers, but that’s irrelevant and a fantastical wish.

I do shop at Whole Foods because they stock many things I can’t find at every corner store. They have all my yummy tabbouleh ingredients. Look how bright! I sift through the crap and only succumb to it’s temptress lure when hungover. I just wish there was a better way for me to connect with what I eat. It is afterall, quite personal.

If my mother had been with me to see the whopping 22 checkout lines I saw today, she would have 22 aislessurely regretted not writing her opus on healthy cooking to empower consumers with immunity against marketing morons. I don’t have a solution, but if there is a real injustice against the American diet, Whole Foods is its biggest offender. The only thing that separates the Woo-Foo from the rest of the bunch is strategic lighting, miso paste, and a moving walkway for your grocery cart. The food is the same as what you see in any other retailer. You’ll find the same preservatives and refined grains on their labels, because that is what has become accepted. Many people would say we as consumers need to demand better quality, but even if people become more conscientious we still need a level of trust. I’m not going to watch 24-hour surveillance of every food retailer. I’m too busy picking out IKEA furniture for that level of commitment!

I would hope Whole Foods to reevaluate the quality and the environmental impact of their food, or adjust their marketing materials because the current perception is that WF’s only sells food that is ‘good for you.’ I nominate myself as marketing-message regulator: decoding bullshit claims, one corporate money-printer at a time. I’m going to need a hat and a badge. Maybe a scooter.

P.S. While there, I saw a PF Chang’s was coming soon. It’s right in front of Mei Wah, one of DC’s best Chinese restaurants. I would hate to see corn syrup-soaked fried foods in overly air conditioned troughs put my friends out of business. Support local businesses!

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